PROS: close and comfortable shaves, easy to use, good build quality and ergonomics, easy to clean, useful accessories, great battery life, inexpensive replacement heads, quiet
CONS: pricier than other Series 3000 models, cordless only operation, no travel lock
The Series 3000 is Philips Norelco’s highly popular line of affordable rotary shavers.
Their excellent price-performance ratio is what made these razors so successful over the years.
And that still appears to be the case with the latest Series 3000 generation that also brings along a nicer design.
However, the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 (S3311/85) appears to be a more premium model in the 3000 range and it even costs more than the rest.
But does it actually shave better than other rotaries that use the same shaving heads and cost less (like for example, the Norelco Shaver 3500)?
Well, in this review of the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 we’ll see just how good it is having thoroughly tested this razor for almost a month.
I’ll also share some cheaper alternatives at the end that may actually be better than the 3800 depending on your needs and budget.
So let’s dive right in.
Table of Contents
- Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 features
- Included accessories
- Build quality and ergonomics
- Battery life and charging
- Shaving performance
- Cleaning and maintenance
- Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 replacement heads
- Wrapup — Should you buy the Norelco Shaver 3800?
- Alternative shavers
Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 features
As usual, we’ll start the review with a quick look over the main features of the razor.
1. 3-blade cutting system
The Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 uses a standard shaving unit with 3 rotary cutters.
The heads are the SH30 blades & guards, the workhorse cutters you’ll find in pretty much all entry-level Philips shavers.
These are simple, durable and relatively cheap blades that work well for most users, but aren’t quite as capable as other more expensive cutters.
But I will get back to the performance and durability later on.
As usual, the cutters are held in these tiny plastic cradles that tilt inwards.
The cutters themselves are suspended on springs and can flex independently. You can see that in action in the image below:
This very simple setup is however quite effective at maintaining constant contact with the skin when shaving different areas of your face, like the jawline and chin.
It’s even suitable for shaving your head as the cutters will mold to the spherical shape of the skull.
2. 5D Pivot & Flex
Apart from the flexing of the cutters mentioned above, the whole shaving unit can tilt back and forth by a few degrees.
Philips seems to make a great deal out of this feature and it even gave it a pompous name, 5D Pivot & Flex.
You’ll see the 5D logo on the sides of the shaving head right over the pivot points.
However, as you’ll see later on, this feature is of little to no use as the range of motion is really limited and you must exert a lot of pressure in order to engage it, more than you’ll ever use while shaving.
I thought this deserved a special mention as it’s one of the main features that differentiate the shavers in the Series 3000 range from the ones in the cheaper Series 2000.
3. 60 minutes of cordless wet/dry operation
Being a wet/dry shaver, the Philips Norelco 3800 (S3311) will only work cordless.
As such, it’s fitted with a rather beefy battery that should last for up to one hour of cordless shaving.
That is pretty impressive for a shaver in this price range (better than a Braun Series 3 ProSkin or a Panasonic Arc 3).
It would have been an absolute win if the Shaver 3800 also worked with the cord plugged in.
The cheaper (dry only) Shaver 2300 works corded and cordless. It does take 6 hours to charge though vs only one hour in the case of the 3800, so that’s a tradeoff.
4. Pop-up trimmer
Unlike some of the high-end Philips rotary shavers, the 3800 comes with an integrated spring-loaded hair trimmer.
This is more practical in my view than the click-on trimmers you would fit in place of the shaving unit.
That said, the trimmer on the Norelco Shaver 3800 is only suitable for some quick touchups and light grooming.
I wouldn’t use it to trim my beard for example, it’ll take ages and won’t be easy.
The Philips Norelco 3800 comes with a standard 2-year warranty. You also have a 45-day money-back guarantee if you’re not happy with the shaver.
Here’s what you’ll be getting with the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 (S3311/85):
- Electric shaver
- Protective cap
- Travel pouch
- Charging stand
- Power cord
- User manual
Out of all the major brands, Philips has to be my least favorite when it comes to packaging.
And while the 3800 doesn’t come in those horrible all-plastic blisters like the Series 2000, it’s still bad.
If you won’t be using the shaver and the accessories for a while and want to store it in the original packaging, it’ll be a pain to fit everything back inside.
But getting back to the accessories, it is a pretty good bundle. In fact, it’s what differentiates the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 from the Shaver 3500.
Precisely, the 3800 also comes with a charging stand, while the Shaver 3500 (S3212/82) doesn’t include one.
If it’s something you must have (some users want the shaver standing upright on the countertop), then the Norelco Shaver 3800 is the one to have.
The textile travel pouch is nothing special, offers basically no protection against mechanical shocks but it’s still better than nothing.
I would take it over those velvety sacks that Panasonic now includes (even with some expensive Arc 5 models).
There’s enough room for the shaver and the charger and maybe a small tube of aftershave, moisturizer, etc.
The protective cap is a nice surprise and a rare find with a rotary razor.
The charging stand even has small rubber feet, looks nice and feels sturdy.
You can charge the shaver either via the stand or by plugging the cord directly into the shaver’s charging port.
All in all, a very decent kit (although a small cleaning brush would have been great).
Build quality and ergonomics
The refreshed Philips Series 3000 that the Shaver 3800 and 3500 are part of is in my opinion excellent from a design and ergonomics standpoint.
Apart from the aesthetics — the previous Series 3000 shavers looked really drab and unexciting — there are some other aspects that deserve some praise.
The build quality of the Norelco 3800 is more than adequate for an entry-level rotary.
It’s also very lightweight at only 189 grams (6.6 oz), but doesn’t have that hollow or cheap plastic feel.
There are no sharp edges or uneven gaps between the panels and despite the all-plastic build, it feels solid and well put together.
And it’s the same for the protective cap and charging stand, they don’t look or feel cheap. The stand even has small rubber feet to prevent it from sliding around.
But the highlights, at least for me, are the excellent ergonomics and ease of use.
It’s one of the most enjoyable and easiest to use rotaries out there: compact, well-balanced, lightweight and fits great in the hand.
The textured rubber-like material on the front and sides is very grippy and the placement is just right.
My thumb rests exactly on it while shaving.
Another apparently minor aspect that I really appreciate with any rotary shaver is the hinged shaving unit that you can flip open with the press of a button.
This flip-open head of the Series 3000 is very convenient for a quick rinse with tap water.
Another practical addition is the integrated pop-up trimmer.
You don’t have to swap the shaving head with a trimmer attachment, you simply deploy it via the switch right below it and start grooming.
Below the thumb rest, there’s the power button and the battery indicator.
The latter is pretty basic with only 3 levels, but it’s still better and most useful than what you’ll find on other entry-level razors.
Let’s now check out the negatives because the Norelco Shaver 3800 is not by any means perfect.
First, there’s no travel lock. The power button doesn’t double as a travel lock (via a long press), it’s just a button that turns the shaver on and off.
This would have been useful when traveling as the switch is very easy to press and the shaver could be switched on involuntarily.
Then there’s the trimmer.
The spring keeping it upright is so weak that it’ll fall back in place during an upstroke if you don’t hold the shaver at a particular angle relative to the skin.
This makes using the trimmer rather annoying and ineffective.
I’ve mentioned this in many other reviews, but Philips and Braun should really learn a thing or two from Panasonic when it comes to hair trimmers.
Panasonic trimmers are by far the best and most effective.
Finally, the tilting of the whole shaving unit (the 5D flexing thing) is pretty much useless as it barely moves and it takes more pressure than you’ll ever use while shaving.
You can see it in action below:
Then again, you don’t really need it as the flexing of the 3 cutters is enough for keeping them flat on the skin.
I’ve actually used the Shaver 3800 side by side with another one that uses the same design but lacks this 5D feature and there’s really no difference.
Overall, I’d say the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 is an easy-to-use, well-built shaver with great ergonomics.
There are a few negatives as well, but the good parts far outweigh them.
Battery life and charging
As noted at the beginning, the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 (S3311/85) can only be used without the cord connected to an outlet.
The rechargeable Li-Ion battery provides excellent autonomy of 60 minutes of cordless use.
Tip: You should charge the shaver completely before using it for the first time.
Charging it from 0 to 100% takes a little less than one hour, which is again really good.
On top of that, there’s a 5-minute quick charge feature built in.
When the battery is completely depleted, you can charge it for just 5 minutes and get just enough juice for a quick shave.
You know the battery is fast charging by the fast blinking of the bottom indicator when the shaver is plugged in.
After approximately 5 minutes, the light will flash slowly, meaning the fast charge is completed and you can now shave for 5 minutes.
And speaking of the battery level indicators, the bottom one will flash orange when the battery is almost drained (around 5 minutes worth of shaving time remaining).
When that happens, you should charge the razor.
In the case of the Norelco 3800, you can do that either by plugging the cord directly into the shaver or by placing it into the charging stand.
So you do not have to bring the stand with you when going on a holiday for example.
The charger provided with the Philips Norelco 3800 has a universal voltage adapter (100–240v) and you can use it while traveling abroad as well.
You may need a simple plug adapter in certain countries. My review unit came with a USA plug and I used a basic US to EU adapter (I am located in Europe).
In conclusion, the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 has solid battery life, a 5-minute quick charge feature, takes less than an hour to fully charge and the charger is lightweight and compact.
It will easily fit next to the shaver inside the travel pouch.
The only thing missing is the ability to use the Norelco 3800 with the cord plugged in.
Let’s now get to the part that matters the most and see if the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 is any good.
As with all the tests on this website, I’ve used the 3800 exclusively for almost a month, switching to other shavers only occasionally and solely for the purpose of a direct comparison (more on that in the alternatives section).
I think I managed to cover most of the real-world use cases which really come down to shaving a short, medium and a longer bead (4 days of growth), but also using a couple of products that should improve the results (pre-shave lotions, shaving cream).
I will break down this section into a few chunks, each one focusing on one key aspect.
Closeness of the shave
Except for the Series 1000 and 2000, the 3000 is, at least on paper, one of Norelco’s less-capable electric shavers.
However, the Shaver 3800 managed to perform surprisingly well for most of the things that matter, including the closeness of the shave.
It’s generally accepted that rotary razors aren’t the best choice if your only concern is getting the closest possible shave.
For most users, a quality foil shaver in the same price range will be able to cut the hair closer to the skin.
Philips tried to compensate for that handicap in the past with the use of the so-called Lift & Cut blades.
By using pairs of blades, the first one lifting the hair and the second one cutting it below skin level, you would theoretically get a closer shave.
In reality, these blades were extremely uncomfortable and at least in my case unusable, with constant stinging and the sensations of hairs getting yanked instead of cut.
Luckily, Philips ditched them in favor of single blades and that was the right decision in my opinion.
These blades are also fitted to the Shaver 3800 in this review and not only are they comfortable, but the closeness is also good enough.
In fact, I would argue that most users will get a smoother shave with them since you can be a lot more thorough and even apply a bit more pressure.
I would rate the closeness of the Shaver 3800 just slightly below a similarly priced foil razor like the Braun Series 3 ProSkin and the Panasonic Arc 3.
And that’s mainly because on areas with denser, thicker hair — in my case the chin and below the nose — the closeness with the Norelco Shaver 3800 could have been better.
Running my fingers over those areas after my shave would feel a bit rougher to the touch compared to using the aforementioned foil razors.
The difference wasn’t however major and if you favor rotaries over foil shavers you might in fact get better results.
I do prefer foil razors, so my experience may not be the most relevant.
I shaved with the Norelco 3800 dry, with and without a pre-shave and also with shaving cream.
My favorite way of using the Shaver 3800 (and the one I’d recommend to most men) is dry with a pre-shave lotion.
I tried a few with this razor and the one that came on top was by far the pre-shave from Speick.
The shave was closer, more comfortable and took less time compared to not using a pre-shave.
While I normally like the ones that have a very dry texture (like Tabac), when using a rotary with a large shaving head those pre-shaves can make the motion jerky.
The shaving head would get stuck and the circular motion won’t be smooth and planted on the skin, which will make your shave a lot less enjoyable and it’ll take more passes for a smooth shave.
The closeness with shaving cream was equally good, but the prep and cleaning take longer and I don’t think the end result is worth the extra work in this case.
A pre-shave, on the other hand, takes seconds to apply and in most cases, it will be beneficial, so I definitely recommend using one with the Norelco Shaver 3800.
Overall, the closeness was more than adequate for an entry-level rotary razor.
If however you’re highly demanding with the closeness of your shave, I would rather look at a more capable foil razor.
I already hinted at this in the previous section, so it won’t come as a surprise that the 3800 is, for the most part, a comfortable and smooth shaver.
I do have very sensitive skin, especially on my neck, but I was perfectly fine using the 3800 dry which is something I can’t do with every rotary razor.
I think the main reason for the shaver’s gentle profile is the use of single blades instead of the Lift & Cut type.
But there are definitely a few other factors that contribute as well.
The motor for example feels and sounds more powerful compared to the ones fitted to the less expensive 2000 and 1000 Series.
A faster motor means a clean cut and fewer chances of hairs getting pulled during a faster stroke.
And that was actually the only time when the Shaver 3800 inflicted some discomfort.
When shaving a longer, 4-day beard, and moving the shaver too fast, it would snag a hair or two, especially the flat-lying ones on the neck.
But that wasn’t an issue when using slower, more controlled strokes.
The shaver itself is lightweight and the head is pretty compact for a rotary which makes using the Norelco Shaver 3800 very pleasant.
The three cutters are suspended or these hairsprings and are very responsive, so most of the time the cutters will be flat on the skin, which is ideal for preventing hairs from getting pulled.
Finally, the shaving head glides smoothly over the skin, especially when using a pre-shave. Surprisingly, not all rotary razors manage to get this right.
Fortunately, the Norelco Shaver 3800 does get it right and it’s easy and enjoyable to use.
I don’t think this razor would be my first pick for someone with sensitive skin, but it can work reasonably well, especially if you need a rotary shaver (low noise, personal preference, etc.).
During my tests, the Shaver 3800 was adequately comfortable regardless of the beard length (I did have to go slower when shaving a 4-day bead) or whether I shaved wet or dry.
Shaving longer, flat-lying hairs
This was again an area where the Norelco Shaver 3800 did quite well.
Rotary razors are generally effective when shaving difficult hairs — in my experience better than most similarly priced foil shavers.
By difficult hairs I mean the ones that grow in different directions or stay flat on the skin.
And the longer the hair, the more tricky it is for the shaver to cut it.
I’d say the Shaver 3800 will work well on a 4-day beard or less. That’s just a general rule of thumb as it will depend on how fast your stubble grows.
Someone with a light beard that grows back slower would probably still get a decent shave after more days.
Personally, I was happy with the way the shaver handled the flat-lying hairs on my neck (and I’ve got plenty of those).
It was quite effective and I didn’t need an excessive number of passes for a smooth shave.
I think Philips deserves props for including a hair trimmer on low-end shavers like the 2000 and 3000 Series.
But the trimmers themselves aren’t great, to be honest.
And that’s the case with the one on the Shaver 3800 as well.
Even though the trimmer is placed just right and is adequately wide, it’s just not very effective.
It takes many strokes to cut the hairs clean and the blade just doesn’t get as close to the skin as I’d like.
And then there’s the issue mentioned earlier — the trimmer will just fall back during an upstroke if you don’t hold it at the right angle.
It’s still better than having no trimmer at all and you can use it to clean your sideburns or for some light facial hair grooming.
I would not rely on it for trimming an entire beard, at least not on a regular basis.
The Philips Norelco 3800 is a very quiet electric shaver during use.
That comes as no surprise since rotary blades spin at a much slower rate compared to the reciprocating blades of foil shavers and the vibrations are also a lot less noticeable.
As a result, this shaver only emits the typical rotary whirring sound which to me was more than manageable and I didn’t find it disturbing in any way.
The Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 (S3311/85) is easy and enjoyable to use, works well on different stubble lengths and for most men, it will provide a reasonably close and comfortable shave.
Cleaning and maintenance
Because the Norelco Shaver 3800 is waterproof and has a simple cutting system, cleaning it is very straightforward and the razor is almost maintenance-free.
A quick rinse with warm tap water after every shave is generally all it takes.
Once you’ve finished shaving, turn the razor off, pop open the shaving unit and rinse it generously under the tap.
Make sure to wash the hair chamber, but also the inside and outside of the shaving unit that holds the three cutting heads.
Shake off the excess water (make sure to hold the shaving head as it can literally fly off the handle), then let the shaver air dry completely with the shaving unit open.
And that’s pretty much it.
I do need to make a couple of notes though.
If you wet shave using shaving cream or gel, I suggest using a bit of liquid soap as well; just rinsing the shaver with water likely won’t be enough.
It may look clean, but even in small traces lather will harden and form buildups which will impact the performance of the razor.
After a wet shave, pour a couple of drops of liquid soap on the shaving head, add some water and turn the razor on for a few seconds.
Use your finger to spread the soap across the three cutters, then rinse it thoroughly with warm tap water.
Pop open the shaving head and give everything one final rinse.
Also, I noticed with my 3800 that some hairs remain stuck to the base of the three shafts that turn the cutters no matter how thoroughly I rinse the shaver.
In that case, you can use a small brush to remove the remaining hairs.
Philips unfortunately doesn’t include a brush with the 3800, so you’ll have to come up with one.
Deep cleaning the Shaver 3800
Finally, if you notice dirt buildups inside the actual cutters or you feel the razor slowing down, you will need to take apart the shaving head and clean it.
Most of the time this won’t be necessary, but I will describe it below as it’s also the procedure you would follow when replacing the Shaver 3800 heads with new ones.
This is a fiddly operation that must be done carefully as the combs and blades are matching pairs and intermixing them will negatively impact the performance of the shaver.
Here’s how to do it.
With the shaver turned off, pop open the shaving head and gently pull the top part from the handle.
It should come out fairly easily.
You must now unlock and remove the retaining frame by turning the center lock counterclockwise.
You now have access to the three pairs of combs and blades.
Remove and clean them with tap water one by one, making sure not to mix them.
Once you’ve done this for all three pairs, put the retaining bracket back in place and turn the lock clockwise.
Philips only mentions lubricating the Shaver 3800’s trimmer (once every 6 months), but nothing regarding the blades.
You can use any highly refined mineral oil like clipper oil.
Also, applying a cleaning & lubricating spray for electric shavers on the cutters would be beneficial in my opinion.
Philips even makes such a spray, but any brand would work (Remington Shaver Saver, Andis CoolCare Plus, etc).
Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 replacement heads
The Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 comes with the SH30 blades, just like the rest of the Series 3000 models.
These are relatively cheap, easy to find and durable shaving heads.
Philips Norelco SH30 replacement heads
Philips recommends replacing them with new ones every 12 months, but oftentimes rotary blades tend to last more.
It will greatly depend on how often you shave and the coarseness of your beard.
You should replace the blades when you notice a performance drop (closeness not as good, irritation, hairs getting pulled, shaving heads getting really warm).
I described how you should access and replace the shaving heads above, but your user guide will have detailed instructions with illustrations as well.
Wrapup — Should you buy the Norelco Shaver 3800?
Concluding the review, I think the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 would be a safe buy for most men looking for a rotary razor that won’t break the bank.
While it’s not as capable as Philips Norelco’s top-of-the-line rotaries (like the S9000 Prestige), it gets the job done and it’s a really pleasant and easy-to-use shaver.
The closeness is good enough in my book and so is the comfort.
It also works well on longer stubble, so it’ll be a good option for men that don’t follow a strict shaving routine.
It comes with quite a few goodies in the box and the quality is more than adequate.
That said, everything good about the Shaver 3800 is a trait of the whole Series 3000.
And this range also includes cheaper shavers that perform absolutely identically. And that’s the main problem with the pricier Shaver 3800.
I’m not by any means saying you shouldn’t get the Shaver 3800, it’s just that the retail price is a bit high in my opinion.
I would definitely keep an eye out for some special deal or discount.
Also, unless you absolutely need the charging stand — which is really the only thing you’re paying extra for — you should probably consider other models in the 3000 Series.
For some users getting a charging stand that holds the shaver upright is a must. For example, very limited countertop space.
But if that’s not an issue, the Shaver 3800 isn’t better than other more affordable shavers in the Series 3000.
Those use the same design, same shaving heads and same motor.
The shaving performance will be identical. So let’s check out some alternatives.
The first obvious alternative would be the Philips Norelco Shaver 3500 (S3212/82) that I’ve also mentioned throughout this review.
Philips Norelco Shaver 3500
Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 vs 3500
Apart from a different color and the lack of a charging stand, the Philips Norelco Shaver 3500 is identical to the Shaver 3800.
You might as well consider this a Norelco Shaver 3500 review as everything stated above would still be relevant for the 3500.
But the most important difference between the 3500 and 3800 is in my opinion the price, the former being cheaper.
So unless you need the stand, you should definitely consider the Shaver 3500, especially if you can get it for (a lot) less.
Side note: other shavers in the new Series 3000 that are usually cheaper than the 3800 are the S3210/51, S3134/84 and S3115/81.
They usually come with fewer accessories and the S3134/84 and S3115/81 have a single-level battery indicator. The shaving performance is however identical to the Shaver 3800/3500.
Finally, there’s the shaver that I usually recommend as a cheap, reliable rotary razor, the Norelco Shaver 2300.
Its main advantages over the Shaver 3800 are the cheaper price and the ability to use it with the cord plugged in as well.
For some users, corded & cordless use is really important, especially in the context of long-term use.
The Shaver 2300 is really similar to the 3800 (and 3500) as you can also tell from the side-by-side comparison below:
The 2300 even uses the same SH30 blades and while the whole shaving unit doesn’t have the 5D flexing head, you really won’t notice that.
When used cordless, the battery life of the 2300 is not as impressive, being good for around 40 minutes of use. It also lacks the 3-level battery indicator.
So what’s the catch then, you might ask.
It’s basically the same, only cheaper and works corded as well.
There is one rather important difference though.
The motor fitted to the Shaver 2300 (which is part of the Series 2000) sounds and feels slower than the one in the Series 3000 (like the Shaver 3800 and 3500).
And while the end results in terms of closeness and comfort will be very similar, it’ll take you longer to shave with the 2300 compared to the 3800.
You’ll also have to work a bit harder to get the same smooth shave.
For users with light beards, I don’t think it’ll be an issue, but if you have a medium to coarse beard, I think you’d be better off with the 3800.
It’s just more enjoyable to use and I personally notice the difference in power.
They aren’t however as good as the Shaver 3800 with longer, flat-lying hairs, so consider that as well.
Foil shavers usually work best on short stubble, so the ones mentioned above would be ideal for men that shave daily or every two days.
And that pretty much concludes this test.
If you have any questions or you’d like to share your experience with the Philips Norelco 3800, make sure to leave a comment below.